In November 2010, UK newspaper the “Daily Mail” published an article which detailed the then publically available Twitter comments of civil servant Sarah Baskerville. Baskerville had made remarks alluding to working while hungover as well as several political in nature that showed her disagreement with the current UK government. Baskerville complained to the Press Complaints Commission that the article intruded her privacy and just a few days ago, the PCC rejected her claim.
A key consideration in the case was the wide availability of the tweets. Baskerville had not limited her privacy settings in any way and although she said she had “reasonable expectation” that her messages would be published only to her 700 followers, anyone could find them if they wanted to.
The reaction has been mixed. Many believe that the PCC’s finding was exactly right; Baskerville should’ve restricted her access if she only wanted her followers to be able to read her posts. As it turns out, however, it’s not quite so straightforward. The PCC has its own guidance on the matter (updated in January 2011) which seems to contradict the recent ruling and the case raises interesting questions about the newsworthiness and respect for individual privacy of these kinds of articles. Just because information is available, does that mean it’s all up for grabs?